Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Yeah . . . it Does Matter!

Portion control is an issue.

I met with a friend over a drink. My friend asked the bar attendant about their glass sizes and then ordered a beverage in a small-size glass. "Oh we only do that in a 400ml size" was the bar attendant's reply.

Like me you were probably taught as a kid to eat everything on your plate. "The poor starving kids in Africa would appreciate it", was often the response if we grumbled. Especially when we were dining as guests in someone else's home we were expected to eat everything put in front of us. It would be rude not to. I do think that it is appropriate to teach our children this when we are the ones controlling the type of food served and the portion size, but there is a time and a place....

In the Documentary, "That Sugar Film" Damon Gameau takes viewers to America to demonstrate the problem there with portion control with all their jumbo and up-sized serving options. While the problem seems to be worse in America it's going on here in Australia too. The traditional Aussie Pub meal with a steak or schnitzel that fills the whole plate, and it seems we consider it quite "macho" for men at least, to consume such a big meal! Then when those "macho men" dine at a much fancier restaurant where the portion sizes are far more sensible because the focus is on quality, not quantity, (but for some reason they serve the meals on huge plates?) they can be heard saying, "Where's the other half?"  Yes, you know who you are!

In Michael Pollan's Documentary "In Defense of Food" based on his book of the same title, they conducted an experiment where they gathered a group of people together for a smorgasbord meal. After everyone had served themselves suddenly they were stopped. An excuse was made about the food. I don't remember exactly what that was but they brought out more food and asked everyone to serve themselves again. This time the plates supplied were smaller. When everyone had returned to their seats for the second time, their attention was drawn to the lesser amount of food they had each served themselves when given a smaller plate.

Getting back to the bar attendant who told my friend that her chosen beverage could only be served in a 400ml size; it's not the bar attendant's fault. There is probably only a charge code on the register for the one size of that beverage. But this is part of what makes it difficult for us to control portion sizes.

When I go out to a restaurant I tend to feel obliged to eat everything on my plate. It probably stems from what I learned growing up but also because I, or someone I am dining with, is paying for the meal and it would be wasteful not to.

But my thinking is changing. I want to control what I put into my body, so now I give myself permission not to eat everything on my plate if it means that I am going to stuff myself silly to do so.

Until we can change the culture of the food service industry, we need to be bold and ask for alterations to a meal, ask for a smaller serving, even if it means still paying full price, and feel comfortable about leaving some food on our plate if it's too much.

"That Sugar Film"
"In Defense of Food"

~ take every opportunity to put the good stuff in ~
This blog is about me, what I'm doing, what's working for me, and what's not. It includes my experiences and opinions. It is for general information only and is in no way intended to replace the advice of a health care professional.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

I Don't Have to Eat That!

Due to airport curfews in other domestic cities, and that lack of a curfew in my home city, the most common and most economical flights out of Darwin are at what the locals 'affectionately' call 'stupid o'clock'. That is flight departure times between 1:00am and 2:30am. It's a really awful time to fly and just messes with your body clock. I can never get much, if any, sleep on the plane. I really dislike it!

On a recent flight at said 'stupid o'clock' I wasn't hungry but I checked out the in-flight menu just because I was curious about what was offered. In the two-page spread labeled 'fresh foods' all I saw was refined carbohydrates! Bread and pastry, toast, more pastry, macaroni cheese, cake and crackers with cheese. The one attempt at something healthy was the inclusion of a low fat raspberry Greek yoghurt pouch. It all looked very unappealing. But in that moment I suddenly realised a positive of flying at 'stupid o'clock' - I don't need to eat! I don't usually eat in the middle of the night and to do so would mess with my digestive system. I don't have to eat airplane food!

Apologies for the poor quality photo

You can however bring your own food with you when you fly. As long as, for quarantine reasons, any fresh fruit is consumed before you disembark. I did this once on a flight to Perth a few years ago. That one wasn't a 'stupid o'clock' departure but must have been early enough in the morning that I knew they'd be serving breakfast. I have a container with a freezer pack section which is perfect for packing yoghurt and fresh fruit and keeping it cold for a few hours. When the in-flight service began I politely declined the hostess' offer of breakfast. The other passenger in my row purchased a muffin and a coffee. I then proceeded to unpack my BYO breakfast from my carry on bag. In my peripheral vision I could see the passenger with the muffin glancing over at me as I tipped my container of chopped fresh mango into a container of yoghurt and then stirred in some nuts and seeds. He looked at his muffin and back at my breakfast and eventually said "I should have done that too!"

~ take every opportunity to put the good stuff in ~
This blog is about me, what I'm doing, what's working for me, and what's not. It includes my experiences and opinions. It is for general information only and is in no way intended to replace the advice of a health care professional.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Gourmet Brekky at the Office

I'm known at work for eating gourmet breakfasts at the office.

Quite a few of the staff come to work early and eat breakfast there. I do it because I live out of town a bit and like to beat the thicker traffic coming in, and to get what is becoming rare - a free parking spot!

So when others are tipping something from a box and pouring on milk, I'm tucking into a cooked breakfast!

There's been beef rissoles with boiled eggs, avocado and sauerkraut 

or leftover veggie pie, with avocado and sauerkraut 


or lately, inspired by an "I Quit Sugar" post, a kind of greens and scrambled eggs...with avocado and sauerkraut, just because I can't live without them!

I prepare the night before by cracking two free range eggs into a mason jar and whisk them with a fork. I add about a tablespoon of pure butter, chopped in a few pieces.

I buy a butter that is certified organic and comes from New Zealand. They say that the healthiest butter to have is from grass fed cows. It doesn't say "grass fed" on the packet, and I haven't been to New Zealand, I've only seen pictures, but I have been to Tasmania and seen the very content looking dairy cows in the lush green paddocks there. I figure that New Zealand would be very similar so the butter is probably pretty good.

Next I add a little grated cheese and a sprinkle of turmeric powder, because turmeric has great anti-inflammatory properties.

I like to sprinkle a little turmeric powder in lots of meals. I figure if small regular doses of chemicals and preservatives in processed foods can make us sick over time then small regular doses of great herbs and spices in real food will do wonders!

So where was I ... then as a minimum I top up the jar with mixed leafy greens and some fresh coriander, but sometimes I'll add other things.

I've done diced onion, just because I was chopping some up for dinner and thought I'll chuck a little
of that in.

I've also added sautéed broccolini and/or asparagus spears because I was doing some with dinner, and last night I had sautéed mushrooms and kale with dinner and saved a little of that for my gourmet
brekky jar.

Then that goes into the fridge overnight. In the morning I pack it with my lunch - usually dinner leftovers in another jar - into an insulated bag with some frozen ice packs for the journey into work.

At the office we have quite a well equipped little kitchen with a microwave.

I simply empty my brekky jar contents into a bowl, stir the mixture lightly with a fork and pop it into the microwave on medium power for around 4 minutes, stopping periodically to "scramble" the egg mixture with a fork. So at say 1 1/2 minutes, at 3 minutes,  and at 3 1/2 minutes. It can take a little longer if you have added the more bulky greens or if you add a little extra liquid. Sometimes I rinse the jar with the tiniest amount of water and tip that in so I'm not leaving half the turmeric powder on the side of the jar.

I then top my scramble and greens with avocado because it's a great fat source for hormone and skin health and sauerkraut because it's very nutritious, great for my gut health and a is digestive aid.

This is really very easy to do.

See, there's really no excuse for not having a delicious and nutritious cooked breakfast everyday!

~ take every opportunity to put the good stuff in ~
This blog is about me, what I'm doing, what's working for me, and what's not. It includes my experiences and opinions. It is for general information only and is in no way intended to replace the advice of a health care professional.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

It's All About the Gut

I've come to the conclusion that there are five main areas to address that are very important in my quest for good health:
These are all pretty important elements but I'm discovering that possibly the most important is looking after my gut. It seems there's an awful lot that goes on in there, and my environment, diet and lifestyle can either help or hinder it. I'm learning that getting things right in my gut will help me with every other aspect of my health.

"All disease begins in the gut" ~ Hippocrates

So what is a healthy "gut microbiome", also referred to as "gut flora"? Apparently it has to do with the ratio of good versus bad bacteria in the gut. Obviously we want more good than bad but also diversity of bacteria is very important.(1)

The very concept of there being such a thing as "good bacteria" is actually a bit hard to get my head around. I've grown up in a generation conditioned to think of bacteria as germs that cause disease - and that's true, but it turns out that there are also many types of bacteria which are extremely good for us, and there's a whole community of microscopic bacteria that lives inside the guts of all of us, and all over the surface of our skin. Yikes! Maybe we just need another word...

In seeking to learn more about this I'm fascinated at how God's Creation is so complex, and yet so simple at the same time. I've found delving into this subject demonstrates that.

Although the importance of gut health doesn't seem to be a commonly understood subject among the general population, articles on the subject are easy to come by. However a lot of them end up recommending you take a supplement and, as I'm not a fan of man-made supplements, I wanted to dig deeper to find out how I can get this good stuff naturally.

I've gradually made my way through various web articles, podcasts, webinars and books. It's a hot topic right now and I just keep coming across more and more information, so much so that I've been trying to write this post for quite sometime but realise now it is going to be an ongoing project! So below is a bit of a summary of some of the stuff I've learned so far.

What does it do?

Good bacteria in the gut assist with digestion, building a strong immune system including correcting/preventing allergies and skin issues, helping to control blood sugar, moods and emotions, keeping the brain healthy and even assisting with getting a good night's sleep! The balance, or ratio, of your good versus bad bacteria also determines whether you are more likely to lose or gain weight. A higher population of good bacterial will make it easier to control weight.(2)

How do we get it?

Natural vaginal birth and breastfeeding are important parts of the process for establishing a healthy gut microbiome and so is the health of the mother's gut as this is passed on to the baby. Babies born by Caesarian section, and those that are formula fed, are at greater risk of health problems because they miss out on establishing a good microbiome, but this can be corrected.(2)

This one might be considered an "old wives tale" but I definitely grew up hearing people say, and have repeated it myself not really understanding why, that "kids need to eat a bit of dirt, it won't hurt them". Science is now revealing why, and that is that exposure to microbes in the soil and the outdoors (think farms, forests, bush or the beach) is vital for development of a healthy microbiome and immune system. (1)

Fibre is food for good gut bacteria so a diet high in fresh vegetables and fruit will help the good bacteria thrive. Some vegetables are classed as prebiotics - a non-digestible food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines. Prebiotics include chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, leeks and jicama or Mexican yam (3).

Fermenting foods is a natural way to bring out good bacteria naturally present in foods - also know as probiotics - live strains of good bacteria. The bacteria proliferate naturally under the right conditions. Beneficial organisms (bacteria and yeasts) feed on the sugars and starches in foods and give off beneficial acids. This process transforms the food into something better, more nutritious, and with more complex flavour, and the acids preserve and protect the fermented food from spoiling.(4) Eating a variety of fermented foods regularly will assist in replenishing and increasing the good bacteria in the gut.

You can make fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut with just cabbage (and other vegetables if you wish) sea salt and lemon juice. The enzymes naturally present in the vegetables will do their thing during the fermentation process producing good bacteria. You can however purchase and add a starter culture to strengthen and increase the diversity of beneficial bacteria. This may be a good idea if you feel you need to restore your gut from too much antibiotic use and/or a really poor diet. Or simply because you don't have access to good quality vegetables to ferment. Organic is always best. Home grown and picked when actually ripened even better. Did you know that there's a cancer-fighting plant chemical called "salvestrol" which is produced just in the last day or two as vegetables and fruit ripens? We don't get that from store bought produce!(5) Commercially grown vegetables may not be as nutritious due to poor soil conditions, pesticide use and early picking.

How do we lose it? 

Guess what bad bacteria thrive on? Sugar and refined foods. If you are experiencing sugar or carbohydrate cravings it might actually be the bad bacteria in your gut demanding to be fed! Switching up the ratio in your gut will help to curb those sugar cravings.(2)

The balance of gut bacteria can be thrown out not only by a poor diet (and that includes too much alcohol) but also by things like stress, exposure to pesticides and heaving metals, and to hormone disrupting chemicals such as those found in plastics (BPA), Teflon, cosmetics, personal care products, air fresheners, sunscreens, and tap water. Don't be overwhelmed! More and more natural alternatives are becoming available.

Prescribed antibiotics, although sometimes necessary, not only kill bad bacteria which cause infection but because they are not selective, also wipe out your good bacteria. If you have to take a course of antibiotics it's wise to also take some probiotics, or better still, eat fermented foods, just not at exactly the same time because that would be pointless. Space it by half a day if you can or at least a few hours. There are many foods that have natural antibacterial qualities like lemon and lime juice, extra virgin coconut oil, raw honey, garlic, cabbage, pineapple, apple cider vinegar, aloevera, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and many herbs. Including these regularly in your diet can help to prevent infections and the need for prescribed antibiotics.(6) The use of essential oils may also assist with this.(7)

What I've been up to

I've experimented with making sauerkraut ... I like to use a combination of cabbage, carrot and beetroot ...
and other fermented vegetables.

I have become rather fond of my sauerkraut and really miss it when I am away from home on holiday. It is at first a bit of an acquired taste but when trying it for the first time it's important to remember that it is meant to be eaten as a condiment, that is, just a tablespoon or two eaten with other foods. I love to have some with a cooked breakfast or a dollop on top of a lunchtime salad. I've made and eaten my way through several batches now and have found that no two batches are exactly the same. I become quite attached to a batch and then when I start another batch at first its like "oh ... that's not quite as good as the last batch" but after a day or two I'm loving the new batch! I think this demonstrates the fascinating message that Mark Schatzer talks about in his book "The Dorito Effect" about how vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals in foods communicate messages to our brain about what our body will get from a particular food and our body knows what it needs and this results in a particular food that can supply that need tasting good to us! This principle only works though when you are consuming a diet exclusively of real whole foods because the messages to the brain are confused by imitation flavourings in processed foods which are largely void of nutrition. So, no, that ice cream craving is not what I'm talking about!

I've also cultivated wild yeast to make sourdough. Cooked sourdough is not a probiotic (3) but the sourdough starter is alive with good bacteria. Sourdough is however easier on the digestive system because the fermentation process breaks down gluten and neutralises anti-nutrients. This allows for easier digestion of gluten and absorption of minerals which would otherwise be unavailable.(4)

I've experimented with kefir (like a drinking yoghurt), kefir cheese made from milk kefir, and coconut kefir which can be flavoured to make a natural carbonated beverage.

Also using whey to make fermented sauces and salsa.

I've even cured my own corned beef!

My experience

I suffered greatly from hayfever as a kid. I remember times when my eyes were so watery that I could barely keep them open. It was horrible! I would never go anywhere without a good supply of tissues and regularly took antihistamine medications.  After moving to a tropical climate in my late twenties hayfever was not such a problem with different types of plants around and far less pollen in the air. But I still had bouts of hayfever whenever I travelled back down south to visit family, that is until about 4 years ago which was when I really changed my diet - removing all processed foods and concentrating on a diet of fresh whole foods. Now travelling south, even when in full Spring bloom does not affect me! I put this down to the change in my diet and subsequent shift in the health of my gut.

About 18 months ago I started having some issues with a recurring rash on the backs of my hands and also a scaly rash that flared up on my scalp at the back of my head around my hairline and behind my ears. Something was out of balance. I'd had the scalp condition once before as a kid and it was treated with a special shampoo. I remembered what that was and got some. For my hands I stopped wearing washing up gloves, started using an eco-friendly dish washing liquid and a pharmacist recommended a cream that I used on both my hands and the rash around my hairline. The shampoo and the cream seemed to clear things up for a while but once I stopped using these products the rashes came back again. I started working more on my internal gut flora by consuming fermented foods every day, instead of just periodically, but I also learned from listening to speakers on the Glowing Skin Summit how we have another microbiome on the surface of our skin. So one day I decided to do something a little crazy. I stopped using the cream and topically applied sourdough starter (knowing that it is alive with beneficial bacteria) on the rashes, left it on for a half hour or so then washed it off. After doing this a few times over the course of a couple of weeks the rashes cleared up and haven't returned. Coincidence? Maybe, but it made sense with the science that between boosting my good gut bacteria, and perhaps its diversity, and the beneficial bacteria on the surface of my skin that the cause of the rashes could be corrected.  

(1) Maya Shetreat-Klein, MD "The Dirt Cure"
(2) Brenda Watson CNC with Leonard Smith MD The Skinny Gut Diet
(3) Dr David Perlmutter "Brain Maker"
(4) Wardeh Harmon with Erin Vander Lugt, Katie Kimball and Jami Ellis "Lacto-Fermentation" companion eBook to the online Lacto-Fermentation eCourse at Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS.
(5) The Truth About Cancer A Global Quest Documentary Episode 4: Excitotoxins that fuel cancer, nature's pharmacy & healing cancer with sound & light.
(6) Young and Raw "10 Antibacterial Foods to Fight Infection Naturally" and My Health Wire "Top 10 Natural Antibiotics Hiding in your Kitchen"
(7) Dr Eric Zielinski (aka Dr Z) 10 Essential Oils for Healing

Resources I've explored:
The Belly Fat Effect by Mike Muntzel MS (c) available through Kindle
The Skinny Gut Diet by Brenda Watson CNC with Leonard Smith MD available through Kindle
Brain Maker by Dr David Perlmutter with Kristen Loberg available from iTunes
The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates with Linda Schatz available from iTunes
The Body Ecology Guide to Growing Younger by Donna Gates with Lyndi Schrecengost featuring Leonard Smith MD available from iTunes
The Dirt Cure by Maya Sheatreat-Klein, MD currently only available in hardcover from Amazon unless you live in the USA.

Online Seminars
Gut health is a much discussed topic in these online seminars:
The Second Opinion Series: Digestion Sessions and Depression Sessions;
Glowing Skin SummitSleep Success SummitEvolution of Medicine Summit and Heal Your Gut Summit

Find great gut health information at these Websites
Body Ecology
Drew Ramsey MD
Kelly Brogan MD
Whole Life Nutrition

Some other Web Articles
My Top 5 Rules For Optimal Gut Health: A Doctor Shares
5 Vital Probiotics That Boost Your Brainpower 
Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food
Are Vegetarian diets better for the microbiome

ABC Catalyst program - Gut Reaction part one  and part two.

~ take every opportunity to put the good stuff in ~
This blog is about me, what I'm doing, what's working for me, and what's not. It includes my experiences and opinions. It is for general information only and is in no way intended to replace the advice of a health care professional.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Real Life Experience and A Mind of Your Own

"We don't change minds through science, through rhetoric, or through data. We change minds through real-life experience. I had that experience I alluded to with my Hashimoto's. I developed an inner knowing that there was potential for bodily healing that I never learned about in all my training."  ~ Dr Kelly Brogan, The Sessions Interview #008.

I write this blog because the experience I've had with changing my eating habits has really changed my life. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to not have to deal with migraines anymore!  If what I share resonates with someone else and helps them too, that's wonderful! My experience has changed the way I look at food and my mindset on the whole concept of why we eat. Sure we do it for pleasure and because we are hungry, but I believe essentially it's about supplying our bodies with nutrients, the building blocks our body needs in order to function the way it is designed to.  And guess what? We are not designed to be sick! So as the blog title suggests, I'm about taking every opportunity to put the good stuff in and not wasting my appetite on stuff that has little or no nutritional value. The more I research, the more evidence I find that this is a good philosophy to live by.

For example, I encourage everyone to take the time to listen to this interview with Dr Kelly Brogan, MD, about her new book "A Mind of Your Own". Dr Brogan is a practicing psychiatrist with a degree in cognitive neuroscience from MIT, an MD from Weill Cornell Medical College, and clinical training from NYU School of Medicine.

This is a very eye-opening interview about anti-depressant medications, Dr Brogan's personal experience and why she stopped treating her patients with medications and instead began focussing on diet and lifestyle interventions. Dr Brogan discusses scientific studies that support her approach and contradict what we learn through mainstream media, why we don't hear about these studies, and how treatment for depression with medications long term actually worsens the problem. She explains we should always be looking for root causes of symptoms, not just popping a pill. This is information everyone needs to hear!

So here's to looking for root causes, learning from real-life experiences, and to discovering medication-free better health!

Source: The Sessions

Related posts of interest:
Flavour, Toxins and Nutritional Wisdom
Book Review: Drug Muggers
Food Matters

~ take every opportunity to put the good stuff in ~
This blog is about me, what I'm doing, what's working for me, and what's not. It includes my experiences and opinions. It is for general information only and is in no way intended to replace the advice of a health care professional.